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Corporate Jan 24, 2013

Cabinet appoints committee to probe charges against Wal-Mart

By Sanjay Singh

The Union cabinet headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the appointment of a one-man Committee to look into the "media reports" alleging American multi-brand retail giant Wal-Mart of bribery to gain entry into Indian market. Though the government has yet not given name of the person who will head the committee, it is expected to be a retired high court or Supreme Court judge.

The opposition BJP had made it a big issue during the last winter session of Parliament, the government's move is seen to take wind out of Opposition's potential protests on the subject in future. As the committee will be asked to submit its report within three months of its constitution, the report is unlikely to be tabled in the budget session, which would begin next month. It would, however, give government a ground not allow the subject to be raised again in Parliament pending submission of inquiry report.

Under scanner. Reuters

Under scanner. Reuters

An official statement said, the terms of reference of the Committee are as follows: To inquire into recent media reports on disclosures of Wal-Mart before the US Senate regarding their lobbying activities and details. Second, whether Wal-Mart undertook any activities in India in contravention of any Indian law and third, any other matter relevant or incidental to the above.

Earlier in the day Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot said the government was in process of setting up of a committee to look into the matter.

"Minister of Parliamentary Affairs has assured Parliament that he will set up a committee to look into the allegations (in the Wal-Mart case) that have come in the media and we are working on that," Pilot told reporters here after meeting senior executives from country's top firms.

As per the proposal, the government will set up one-man commission to be headed by a retired high court chief justice or a judge. The corporate affairs ministry had proposed that committee be set up under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1951. Under the Commission of Inquiry Act, it is obligatory on part of the government to table the probe report as well as the action report in Parliament.

As per the given time frame, it looks as though the report could be tabled in Parliament only towards the end of second part of the Budget session or could even go to the monsoon session later in the year.

by Sanjay Singh

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